It turns out that a reported plan to clone a Neanderthal baby was lost in translation.
Harvard geneticist George M. Church was quoted in the Daily Mail as looking for an “adventurous woman” to serve as a surrogate for a “cloned cave baby.” The shocking headline spread quickly across the media with no small amount of help from major news aggregators like the Drudge Report.
But the Boston Herald dug a little deeper into the story, joining a long list of news outlets that contacted Church for an explanation.
Church told the Herald Monday night that the Daily Mail article was based on an interview he gave to the German-language magazine Der Spiegel and poorly translated comments he made about the possibility of one day cloning a Neanderthal.
“I’m certainly not advocating it,” Church told the Herald. “I’m saying, if it is technically possible someday, we need to start talking about it today.”
In 2010, scientists said that most humans carry trace elements of Neanderthal genes in their DNA, which Church says gives credence to the theory of a potential cloning project.
Church added that he wasn’t even involved in the particular aspects of the Human Genome Project focused on Neanderthals. Nonetheless, he hopes to use the mistake made by the media for the greater good. “I want to use it as an educational moment to talk about journalism and technology," he said.
Not helping with the confusion, the Daily Mail has still not updated or corrected its story, which as of press time has more than 24,000 Facebook shares and 1,200 reader comments.